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It’s Time to Acknowledge the Increasing Number of Young Caregivers

By: Erica Jablonski

June 8, 2021

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted a greater percentage of Gen Z and Millennials into caregiving roles for the first-time, than those of prior generations (i.e., Baby Boomers or Gen Xers). According to the global survey that reported this, young adult caregivers, aged 18-34, also described experiencing more burnout as a result (77%) than their older adult counterparts (57%). They also believed that their pandemic caregiving was particularly detrimental to their personal lives (82%), financial status (56%), long-term career goals (52%), and current job responsibilities (51%). Despite these challenges, Millennials across the world felt that caregiving was more rewarding than those of other generations, although 18–34-year-olds almost uniformly (95%) indicated that they could benefit from help in accessing services to properly provide care.

The ranks of young caregivers however are not limited to young adults. The pandemic has been attributed to increasing the number of youth caregivers as a result of the restriction of their activities outside the home. Although even before the pandemic, over 3 million youths were caregiving in the U.S., Japan just last year conducted its first nationwide survey on this understudied population. It is believed that even for those caregiving before COVID, that the pandemic has made caregiving more difficult because it has limited regular activities and opportunities to relieve stress, such as exercise and socializing, that may have otherwise occurred at school.

What young adult and youth caregivers have in common is that because they are not stereotypical caregivers, they can encounter unique challenges, and less support. As with caregivers more generally, young caregivers describe feeling isolated from others; the difference is that this isolation is occurring at foundational times in their lives, in terms of establishing themselves educationally, vocationally, financially, and socially. In response to their frequently more meager finances, and smaller number of contemporaries, young adults have begun to reach out to their young caregiving peers through work-life balance articles, and support groups. Nevertheless, this should only be seen as a short-term solution. The long-term solution is to incorporate them in conversations around caregiver needs, and to expand caregiver program eligibility and funding considerations, to include them.

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